CLEVELANDThis is how you know Marco Belinelli had a good night Tuesday: Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau subbed out Luol Deng, in the first quarter, in order to leave Belinelli, who scored 12 in the opening period and 23 on the evening, in the game.Marco, I thought, had a pretty good rhythm going and he had the hot hand, so we went the other way on that, Thibodeau said of his decision to put reserve swingman Jimmy Butler in the game for Deng, the NBAs minutes-per-game leader entering the evening, instead of Belinelli. I thought Marco was terrific.Hes been playing well. He had extended minutes, that was the biggest difference. I thought he played hard. He scored different ways, he got to the free-throw line, posted up, catch-and-shoot and I thought his teammates were searching him out, too, which was playing smart. You want to have a balance. You want to be inside-out, so we wanted to get our ball movement going. So, we felt that was the most important thing and hes a very good catch-and-shoot player, so we tried to play off that some, continued the coach, before delving into why he believed the Italian free-agent acquisition would eventually break out of his early-season slump. Because of what hes done in the league. You have an idea because hes already proven that, so you know that its a matter of time and I think that each day and each game hes gotten more comfortable, so I thought he played very, very well.Belinellis teammates also never wavered about the backup shooting guards ability, despite his woes in adjusting to a new system.I think it was huge. Even in the beginning of the year, hes somebody who works really hard on his game and never got discouraged, kept playing hard and you see that as a player, Joakim Noah said. As somebody whos passionate about the game, Im happy that its paying off for him.Deng added: Its really good. Marco played great tonight. First quarter, came out, he was aggressive, stayed aggressive, made some big plays. But we knew Marco could play. Hes been struggling a little bit finding his rhythm and hopefully this will help him find his rhythm until Rip comes back.When he comes off the bench, hell be comfortable with what hes doing and now hes getting more minutes.Belinelli himself attempted to deflect all the attention he was getting and instead focused on the team getting back to winning.It was a good game for us, he said. I think we played a great first quarter and we played together on offense and defense. I think thats whats important, especially after the game yesterday. It was a tough loss for us, so winning a game like tonight was important for everybody.It was good tonight, Belinelli continued. My teammates were ready to find me, so that was good. Just continuing this way. Its important for us to play together like tonight, run on fast breaks, try to score each basket and play good defense.I think it was important for me, he went on to say. First of all, just working, working and working.New team, new organization for us, for me especially, so just be ready to play, be aggressive every time. Thats the way that weve got to play. Tough, tough, tough.As for Deng, he still ended up logging over 42 minutes of playing time, but the All-Star felt that the early breather helped him, especially coming in a back-to-back contest. A 22-point scorer on the night, the ironman used his rare time on the sidelines to crack wise.When I went and sat on the bench, watching the game, I just told the guys, So this is what you all do at this time? No, but it was cool, he said. I think Coach realized that it was a tough game last night, I played a lot of minutes and quick turnaround. So, he realized that, gave me a quick rest early and that actually helped me a lot.
The 2019 NHL free agent class — both restricted and unrestricted — is absolutely loaded. But perhaps the biggest fish of them all has already been taken off the board.
Erik Karlsson and the San Jose Sharks have agreed to an eight-year extension worth $11.5 million per year, according to Cap Friendly, becoming the highest-paid defenseman in league history. It’s a significant move for the Sharks, who are looking to keep the band together and take a few more stabs at a Stanley Cup before their window starts to close — Joe Thornton is 39, Joe Pavelski turns 35 in July, Brent Burns is 34, Marc-Edouard Vlasic is 32 and Logan Couture is 30.
How the Sharks make the math work going forward will be fascinating to monitor. Thornton, if he doesn't decide to hang up the skates, is a UFA. Same with Pavelski, who is coming off one of the most productive seasons of his career. Both of those players have become part of the Sharks identity, but their futures aren't guaranteed. And then there are guys like Kevin Labanc and Timo Meier, both of whom are RFAs and due big raises.
So how does the Karlsson extension impact the Blackhawks and the rest of the Western Conference?
For starters, the UFA defensemen class just got thinner and that could lead to overpayment across the board from teams looking for impact-type blue-liners because general managers that are looking to make a splash don’t want to come away empty-handed. The Blackhawks were never going to be in on Karlsson, but his contract set the market for this year's class and the fact the signing came before the NHL Draft now gives teams that would've been in on Karlsson an opportunity to refocus ahead of the negotiating period.
In the bigger picture, the Sharks just solidified themselves as legitimate Stanley Cup contenders for at least the next couple seasons. While the Karlsson contract may not look the greatest on the back half, given his durability issues, the Sharks had no choice but to offer him a blank check. When healthy, he is a game-changer and a two-time Norris Trophy winner who's still in his prime, and if the Sharks win a title in the next couple years then it was well worth it. You don't let players like him walk.
The Blackhawks are expected to be aggressive over the next several weeks, particularly in free agency but also continuing to explore the trade market. We already saw that when they acquired defenseman Olli Maatta from the Pittsburgh Penguins, a move that could only be the first of many this offseason. The West might be top heavy, but this past season proved that any team can turn it around quickly and the Blackhawks need to do everything in their power to make sure they're one of those teams.
NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Aug. 5, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 30.
School: Metea Valley
Head coach: John Parpet Jr.
Assistant coaches: Defensive coordinator - Erik Kramer, Asst. coach - Russ Lorenz, Asst. coach - Albert Zika, Asst. coach - Evan Goodman
How they fared in 2018: 1-8 (0-4 DuPage Valley Conference). Metea Valley failed to qualify for the IHSA state football playoffs
2019 regular season schedule:
Aug. 30 vs. Wheaton Warrenville South
Sept. 6 @ Lake Park
Sept. 13 @ Belleville East
Sept. 20 @ Naperville Central
Sept. 27 vs. De Kalb
Oct. 4 @ Naperville North
Oct. 11 vs. Neuqua Valley
Oct. 18 @ Waubonsie Valley
Oct. 25 vs. Neuqua Valley
[MORE: 93 Days to Kickoff: Oswego East]
Biggest storyline: Can the Mustangs get off to a good start under first year head coach John Parpet Jr.?
Names to watch this season: TE/DE Austin Frederick (Sr.) and TE/LB John Belskis (Sr.)
Biggest holes to fill: The Mustangs will need to replace seven graduated starters on the defensive side of the football for the 2019 season.
EDGY's Early Take: Metea Valley and first year head coach John Parpet Jr. will look to get the Mustangs program on the winning side of the slate after posting back-to-back 1-8 seasons. They will rely on an experienced core of senior multi-year starters. If the underclassmen group can develop sooner rather than later, this program has the potential for a breakout. The regular season schedule in the DuPage Valley conference is always stacked; they need to get off to a good early start.